Virginia Guard personnel preparing for possible severe weather response operations

SANDSTON, Va. — The Virginia National Guard has been authorized to bring up to 800 Soldiers, Airmen and members of the Virginia Defense Force on state active duty for response operations due to severe weather expected to hit the commonwealth in the coming days. The Virginia Guard plans to stage personnel at readiness centers in the areas of Hampton Roads, Central Virginia, Shenandoah Valley and Southwest Virginia in order to be ready to respond if needed.

The alert process to notify personnel to report for duty has begun, and they are scheduled to be in place by Friday evening, Oct. 2, 2015.

Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency throughout Virginia Sept. 30 to authorize public safety officials to respond to flooding events in communities across the state and to prepare for more extreme weather throughout the rest of the week.

Potential missions for the Virginia Guard include using Humvees and light and medium tactical trucks for high water transport as well as engineers with chain saws, trucks and heavy engineer equipment for debris reduction and downed tree removal, said Lt. Col. Douglas Gagnon, deputy director of joint operations for the Virginia Guard.

Gagnon explained that it is critical for the Guard to be able to stage personnel and equipment before the severe weather hits so they are able to rapidly respond when needed.

The Virginia National Guard receives their missions through the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to assist the Virginia State Police, the Virginia Department of Transportation and other state and local emergency response organizations and is not able to respond to direct support requests from the public, Gagnon said.

“If you need assistance because of the heavy rain, flooding or fallen trees, please call 911 or your local dispatcher and let them know you need help and do not contact the Virginia National Guard directly,” he said. “The local authorities will work with VDEM to determine what emergency services are best suited to assist you, and they will contact us if it appropriate for us to take action.”

The Virginia National Guard was last on state active duty in February and March 2015. They wrapped up a fourth round of response operations caused by heavy snow and flooding, and all personnel returned to normal operations March 7, 2015. Over an almost three-week period beginning Feb. 16, more than 330 Soldiers staged at locations across the commonwealth to assist local law enforcement and emergency response organizations with delivering food, water, medicine and other supplies, evacuating citizens for safety and medical assistance and removing snow berms limiting road access with engineer equipment. Virginia Guard aviators also conducted an aerial resupply mission to deliver supplies to an iced-in Tangier Island.